cover image Except If

Except If

Jim Averbeck, S&S/Atheneum, $12.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4169-9544-9

Averbeck (In a Blue Room) explores the idea of expectations in this short, sweet, philosophical speculation. "An egg is not a baby bird," he explains, with a picture of a blue egg with a crack in it. "[B]ut it will become one" (the egg breaks open to reveal a small red head), "except if it becomes a baby snake," reads the text as the red head proves to have a forked tongue, after a page turn. Averbeck's simple shapes are outlined in pastel, a coloring-book style nicely suited to the deadpan narration. After venturing as far afield as dinosaurs and fossils, Averbeck circles back around to his starting point with another blue egg, "which will not necessarily become a baby bird"—the page turn reveals a gangly, pop-eyed chick—"except if it does." Even very young readers will find they've succeeded in following a rather convoluted piece of reasoning, clause by clause and picture by picture; it's a book in which the action unfolds in the mind as much as it does on the page. Ages 2–6. (Jan.)